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February 19, 2009 4:54 am

Time to peak

Written by Tribune Staff

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Powell High School's Cole Kary (left) is one of 14 Panthers listed in the Class 3A rankings released by WyoPreps.com on Feb. 11. Kary is ranked second in the 145-pound weight class. Tribune photo by David Dickey

PHS wrestlers ready for stretch run

A number of wrestling coaches in Wyoming can often be heard using the phrase, “Everything is practice until regionals and state.” Count Powell High School coach Nate Urbach among that group.

With that in mind, it's safe to say Urbach's Panthers have accomplished a great deal during “practice” this season.

For starters, the team has held the No. 1 spot in the Class 3A standings all season long. And in dual meets, the Panthers have been perfect. Following last week's victory over Worland, the Panthers concluded the regular season with an 18-0 record. They've also fared well in big-time tournaments in South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming throughout the 2008-09 slate.

On top of the team accolades earned so far, the Panthers have had a number of wrestlers enjoy individual success. As of last week's Class 3A standings released by WyoPreps.com, PHS had 14 wrestlers ranked sixth or higher. Of those, two Panthers held No. 1 rankings and five checked in at No. 2.

Without a doubt, Urbach's squad has accomplished a lot in two and half months.

But the No. 1 team goal still looms — a repeat state title — and the Panthers are looking to make a major step toward realizing that dream this week when they take part in the Class 3A West Regional, which serves as the qualifier for the state tournament. Now is the time for all of the practice to pay off.

“This is the time of year you want your guys to peak,” Urbach said. “We won't know for sure if that's going to be the case until we step on the mats Friday, but I think we are as ready as we can be. We gave them three days off after our dual meet with Worland last week, and I think that should help us as well.”

When the Panthers begin competition at the two-day West Regional Friday, they'll be squaring off against wrestlers from No. 5 Worland, Lovell, Cody, Jackson, Mountain View and Kemmerer. And with the way the qualifying is formatted, Urbach's Panthers will be looking for spots in the top eight in their weight classes, which will earn them berths in the state bracket.

Because of the success the Panthers have had this season, they will enter the West Regional as the favorite to win the team title and many of the top places in the individual weight classes. However, with those lofty expectations comes the fact that every other team will be gunning for each Panther that graces the mats Friday and Saturday.

“I just told our guys not to assume anything,” Urbach said. “You have to go out there and take it. You don't want your guys to be overconfident, and this bunch has been good about how they've handled themselves.”

Prior to the start of the season, Urbach said he wanted to put his wrestlers in a position where they felt they deserved to win by having them pay the price that is associated with hard work. By outworking opponents in the practice room, Urbach believes the pressure to win is lessened as well. For anyone who has witnessed the Panthers at work during practice, it's clear they strive for excellence. The workouts are demanding. So how do the Panthers avoid burning out before the end of the season? Urbach said careful tapering off of workouts plays a key role. He also said pride plays a part in it as well.

“We rest them more at the end of the year,” Urbach said. “The key is to not do that too early. Also, there's a lot of pride surrounding our work ethic. Our kids understand that working hard pays off, and they feel like they work harder than other teams.”

That physical and mental edge the Panthers have developed during Urbach's time has paid off, and they're looking for it to again produce dividends this year in the form of repeat championships at the regional and state levels.

Among the top-rated Panthers to keep an eye on this week will be senior Trevor Donarski and junior Auston Carter. Donarski is ranked No. 1 at 152 and carries a record of 41-1. Carter is first in the 140-pound weight class and boasts a 39-5 mark.

PHS's remaining ranked wrestlers include Ren Utter (No. 2 at 103), Luke Wozney (No. 6, 103), Olie Olson (No. 2 at 112), Colt Nix (No. 5 at 125), Randy Andrews (No. 3 at 130), Cory Eden (No. 2 at 135), Cole Kary (No. 2 at 145), Jimmy Seckman (No. 4 at 145), Cody Kalberer (No. 2 at 160), Joe Lujan (No. 6 at 171), Monte Nickles (No. 5 at 189) and Tyler Showalter (No. 6 at 215).

Wrestling action at the West Regional is scheduled to begin at noon Friday. Saturday's competition is slated to begin at 10 a.m.